There’s something special about waterfalls. Whether they’re gushing torrents of unbridled energy or delicate cascades of ivory water, they demonstrate the beauty and power of nature.
Beyond being pleasing to the eye, however, a bunch of studies also indicate that waterfalls are flat out healthy for us to be around. There are these tiny molecules called negative ions that have been electrically charged and apparently, when humans hang out around negative ions, some studies indicate that good things happen. Things like reduced stress, increased metabolism and better functioning immune systems. Waterfalls are one of the best places on earth to soak in negative ions.
Luckily for us, there are A LOT of waterfalls to explore. The World Waterfall Database lists 17,077 in the United States alone. If those numbers seem a little daunting, City Mom Collective is here to help narrow the list down a bit, with our very own unbiased recommendations.
This list focuses on falls in the United States and, even so, is far from a complete list. The state of Washington has more than 3,100 falls within its borders; Oregon boasts about 1,600 and California has about 1,000. Hawaii has a huge number of the tallest falls. But the collection below is a terrific start! It represents the opinions of City Mom Collective team members, some friends and family and a bit of good, old-fashioned research.
We’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments – bonus points for photos!
Thunderbird Falls – Near Anchorage, an easily accessible, 1.8-mile trail leads to Thunderbird Falls. The trail is has handrails and boardwalks, making it a great hike for kids of all ages.
Brooks Falls – Located within the Katmai National Park, Brooks Falls is home to large populations of brown bears. Bears here fish for the salmon which arrive between July and September.
Nugget Falls – This waterfall near Juneau plunges over a rugged mountainside into Mendenhall Lake, south of Mendenhall Glacier. The visitor center features museum quality exhibits and hiking trails wind through the outdoors.
Cedar Falls – This waterfall sits along a national recreation trail in Petit Jean State Park. The trail follows Cedar Creek to the 95-foot Cedar Falls, one of the tallest continuously flowing waterfalls in the state and most photographed.
Yosemite Falls – This is the tallest waterfall in the state of California and by some measures, the tallest in the United States, dropping 2,425 feet over five plunges and one section of cascades. “Yosemite Falls is far and away the best waterfall in the United States.” ~World Waterfall Database.
Amicalola Falls – Nestled between Chattanooga and Atlanta, it’s considered one of the natural wonders of Georgia and its tallest waterfall. It’s the third-highest east of the Mississippi River. It’s mossy and boulder filled and a reminder of the beauty of nature when humans don’t break things. 😅
Fantastic Pit Falls – This one is for experts only. Seriously. Located in Ellisons Cave, the 12th deepest cave in the world, the falls are the tallest documented underground waterfall in North America.
Hawaii boasts more big falls than anywhere else in the United States. There are simply too many to list, but below is a good start. Check out more here.
Olo’upena Falls – One of four super tall waterfalls that flow over the cliffs of northern Molokai. These roughly 3,000-foot sea cliffs are among the tallest in the world, making for impossibly tall waterfalls. Olo’upena is unofficially designated as the tallest waterfall in the United States.
‘Akaka Falls – We did this one on the Big Island of Hawaii recently. Downside? There’s a fee to park. Upside? The hike to the falls is unbelievably gorgeous, with photo ops around every turn. Don’t rush to the falls — enjoy the beauty along the way.
Manoa Falls – Easy, one-mile hike to a gorgeous waterfall on Oahu. Scenes from Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed along this trail.
Wailua Falls – This 140-foot waterfall on Kauai is famous and accessible. It appears on countless postcards and was used as the opening scene for the 70’s TV series Fantasy Island. Easy-to-photograph waterfall; no hiking needed.
Shoshone Falls – Known as “The Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is one of the true great waterfalls in North America. The falls of the cascade over a 900-foot-wide, horseshoe-shaped formation.
Step Falls – Located near Newry, Step Falls is one of Maine’s tallest. The falls run down a long series of cascades and slides. Between each section of falls are several pools, making this a popular summer swimming hole destination.
Bish Bash Falls – Possibly the highest waterfall in Massachusetts and this deep gorge is a popular destination. Bash Bish drops about 80 feet into an emerald pool.
Tahquamenon Falls – I love Tahquamenon Falls (specifically, the Upper Falls). I first saw it as a kid and the colors are just so unique (they come from the tannins in the water)! The surrounding state park encompasses nearly 50,000 acres. The Upper Falls is one the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi and four miles downstream is the Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island.
Gooseberry Falls – Years ago, I dragged my then-boyfriend, now-husband to northern Minnesota for a weekend adventure. One of our stops was at Gooseberry Falls State Park near Two Harbors. He was amazed that visitors could hike not only near the falls, but also traverse the rocks across them, if the waters aren’t raging.
Virginia and St. Mary’s Falls – Glacier National Park is home to dozens and dozens of waterfalls, many of them behemoths and some of them pretty inaccessible. But Virginia and St. Mary’s Falls are relatively easy to get to and definitely worth the hike. We did it with two families, including five young kiddos.
Niagara Falls – Perhaps the most famous waterfall in America, in America’s oldest state park. If you’re looking for solitude, this is clearly not the place to go. But if you want to see a raging falls, rainbows and all the accompanying fanfare, this is a must-do. Fun fact: 3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second.
Hickory Nut Falls – One of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, this one in Chimney Rock State Park was featured in the movie “Last of the Mohicans.”
Brandywine Falls – An iconic falls in Cuyahoga National Park, near Cleveland, and one of the tallest in the state.
Multnomah Falls – Near Portland, this is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest with more than 2 million stopping by each year to take in the views, according to the U.S. Forest Service. From here, it’s tough to narrow the list, as Oregon is home to about 1,600 waterfalls.
Ganoga Falls – This 94-foot falls is the highest of 22 named waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park, one of the most scenic areas in eastern Pennsylvania. Ricketts Glen harbors the Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark.
Bushkill Falls – Called the “Niagara of Pennsylvania,” Bushkill Falls is among Pennsylvania’s most famous scenic attractions. This series of eight waterfalls is located in the Pocono Mountains and accessible through a network of hiking trails and bridges.
Lower Whitewater Falls – The Whitewater Falls chain consists of six different waterfalls along the North and South Carolina border. It’s the highest series of falls in eastern North America. The Lower Whitewater Falls offers a dramatic 200-foot drop.
Palouse Falls – This one is among the last active waterfalls on the Ice Age floods path. It was named Washington’s state waterfall in 2014, when the state Legislature passed a bill written by local schoolchildren.
Depot Creek Falls – “The main waterfall of Depot Creek is one of the true juggernaut waterfalls in North America and by some standards might be one of the 100 best waterfalls on the planet,” according to the World Waterfall Database. Enough said.